By David Bass
Carolina Journal News Service
RALEIGH — Public school teachers in North Carolina receive an average annual salary of $53,392 for the current school year, according to the latest figures from the N.C. Department of Public Instruction. That puts the state second best in the Southeast — behind Georgia — in average teacher pay.
Teacher salaries swiftly increased between 2014 and 2019 — rising from $44,900 per year to the current $53,940 — before stalling out the past two years, noted Dr. Terry Stoops, director of the Center for Effective Education at the John Locke Foundation. That was due to the Republican-controlled General Assembly and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper remaining at loggerheads over the amount of any future increases.
In 2019, lawmakers passed a bill to increase teacher pay by 3.9%, but Cooper vetoed it under the rationale the amount continued to “shortchange” teachers. Republicans offered a compromise 4.9% raise plus a $1,000 bonus if Senate Democrats agreed to override Cooper’s veto, but that effort fell short in a party-line vote.
That conflict is on the cusp of emerging once again this year. Cooper’s proposed budget for the new biennium includes an average 10% pay raises for teachers and principals, including one-time bonuses of $2,000.
Lawmakers will hammer out their own budget in the coming weeks, but some Republicans have already floated teacher-pay increases through introduced legislation. Companion bills in the House and Senate, for example, would boost pay by $3,000 a year for veteran teachers serving in years 15 through 24 of their careers.
Stoops suggests a different approach.
“Republicans in the General Assembly have done an admirable job of ensuring that starting salaries are competitive with other states in the region,” he said. “Now, I think, lawmakers must begin crafting a compensation system designed to retain our very best mid- and late-career educators and those in teacher shortage areas.
“The sooner that lawmakers abandon the practice of awarding across-the-board raises and bonuses, the better,” Stoops added.